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Spectral spatiality in the acousmatic listening context

Khosravi, Peiman (2012). Spectral spatiality in the acousmatic listening context. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)


Sounds are often experienced as being spatially higher or lower in congruence with their frequency ‘height’ (i.e. pitch register). The term ‘spectral spatiality’ refers to this impression of spatial height and vertical depth as evoked by the perceived occupancy of evolving sound-shapes (spectromorphologies) within the continuum of audible frequencies.

Chapters One and Two draw upon a diverse body of literature to explore the cognitive and physiological processes involved in human spatial hearing in general, and spectral spatiality in particular. Thereafter the potential pertinence of a spectral space consciousness in the acousmatic listening experience is highlighted, particularly with regard to more abstract acousmatic contexts where sounds do not directly invoke familiar source identities. Chapters Three and Four further elaborate aspects of spectral space consciousness and propose a terminological framework for discussing musical contexts in terms of their spectral space design. Consequently, it is argued that in acousmatic music, spectral spatiality must be considered as an inseparable aspect of spatiality in general, although its pertinence only becomes directly highlighted in particular musical contexts.

The recurring theme in this thesis is that, in acousmatic music, 'space' is not a parameter but a multifaceted quality that is inherent to all sounds. As well as providing an analytical framework for discussing spatiality in acousmatic music, this thesis highlights the compositional potentials offered by spectral spatiality, particularly in relation to the creation of perspectival image in multichannel works. For instance, the possibility of (re)distributing the spectral components of a sound around the listener (circumspectral image) is discussed in context, and a software tool is presented that enables an intuitive and experimental approach to the composition of circumspectral sounds for 6 and 8 channel loudspeaker configurations.

This thesis is useful for both composers and analysts interested in aspects of spatiality in acousmatic music. It also offers some insight into spectral space consciousness in non-acousmatic music, and may therefore contribute towards a more general understanding of the nature of our spatial experience in music.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Departments: School of Arts & Social Sciences > Music
Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
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